Monday, June 15, 2009

Bibi responds to Obama

A few hours ago, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at Bar Ilan University in his first major public appearance since Barack Obama's "message of peace" at Cairo University last week. Netanyahu's reaction was hotly anticipated, and he certainly did not let the press down, stating for the first time in Israel's history, support for the creation of a Palestinian state. The one caveat to this support is that it must be a demilitarised state - a suggestion that many will find unacceptable.

Overall, the reaction from Israelis has been one of appreciation and approval. My facebook page was swamped with messages posted such as "Have we found a leader?" and "Bibi gave a good, eloquent and uplifting speech." Such sentiments seem typical of the general Israeli reception of the speech. Whereas the biggest story in the foreign press was the historic call for the Palestinians to finally have a state of their own, Israelis seemed generally unperturbed by such a statement; even if hasn't actually happened yet, most Israelis have accepted the need for a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Because Israel has never seen true peace, its Prime Ministers have tended to be men who previously served as high ranking officers in the IDF. Moreover, as the prospects of a Palestinian state being formed next to Israel become more and more realistic, Israelis increasingly feel that any leader who gives land to the Palestinians must not be construed as "weak." As such, Benjamin Netanyahu stands in a different category entirely to the competition - he is trusted by a large swathe of the public in a way that no other politician in Israel is. There is no doubt that he cares desperately. Although Netanyahu does not make a habit of mentioning his late brother, Yoni, (a hero who was the sole casualty of an extraordinary IDF rescue mission in 1976) today he did. Speaking as one who understands the pain and emotion his country has undergone, Netanyahu said clearly "I do not want war. No one in Israel wants war" to great applause. Whereas often Israelis feel that displaying our exhaustion is a interpreted by our enemies as a sign of weakness, Netanyahu sounded absolutely honest and crucially avoided coming across as sounding weak or resigned to American coercion.

While Prime Minister Netanyahu's statement was the first time an official had gone on record to lend support to a future Palestinian state, it is not really a shock. Last week, I read newspaper headlines saying that Netanyahu "may give in to Obama's demands," or "cave to American pressure," but here the reality couldn't be further from the truth; in 1997 Yassir Arafat and Benjamin Netanyahu, during his first stint as the Israeli PM, agreed to hand over control of Hebron to the PA. This was well before Obama came to power. The withdrawal from this city was made against huge internal pressure, and serves to prove that Netanyahu, a man who is perceived as being right-wing and hawkish, actually wants a Palestinian state to be built alongside Israel.

For a Prime Minister's first major policy speech, it is undeniable that Mr. Netanyahu spoke extremely well and made a very solid case for Israel, but I still have reservations as to whether he has done enough. Many people in the western world are misinformed (or worse) and believe that the settlements are a major stumbling block to peace in the region, whereas many Israelis know that this simply isn't the case. Despite this, Netanyahu conceded that settlement building needs to stop - a statement that should go some way to appeasing Obama's insistence on a freeze on all settlement activity. Truth be told, Netanyahu only presented a minor bargaining chip there - even though no he agreed that no more settlements can be built, and that Israel is obligated to dismantle a number of settlements, he refused to make the natural growth of existing settlements illegal. I think that the majority of Israelis agree with this position, and that even those who don't (on either extreme of the political spectrum) will be able to deal with this solution.

And yet, I was disappointed with the speech. It's not that Netanyahu said anything wrong - far from it - without understatement I can say that I agreed with every word. Importantly, Netanyahu set Barack Obama straight on the issue the historical rights of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel, including Judea and Samaria. (Something which is not connected to the Holocaust.)

There's an element of Israelis and Jews who are convinced that Obama is anti-Zionistic and anti-Semitic. They refer to his middle name, Hussein, and his religious background, and say that he either is a Muslim, or at the very least sympathises with Muslims. I don't buy into this theory at all. I prefer to believe that Obama is an highly ideological man, a true liberal who wants to see both Palestine and Israel flourish. Unfortunately, no matter how much Barack Obama wants to bring peace to the Middle East, he will only be allowed to fulfill his dream if the Palestinians want to share in his vision. For as long as the Palestinian people are engaged in terrorism, they compromise their ability to be true partners in a real peace process, and forcing Israel to accept a two-state solution at such a time is recklessly naive. Netanyahu has invited the Palestinians to talk peace, but we all know that talking peace is cheap - doing peace is so much more expensive. At the present time, we have no signs that the Palestinians are ready for peace, neither spoken or in action, and as such it would be foolish to create a Palestinian state at this moment in time.

It is not by chance that Netanyahu spoke at the Begin-Sadat Center, which was named after the Israeli and Egyptian leaders who signed the historic 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace treaty. The centre was named after two leaders who put an end to a longstanding bloody conflict with the declaration of "no more wars," a statement that resonates deeply within the Israeli psyche. This centre is part of Bar Ilan University, a campus universally recognised as the most conservative in Israel. Yet, no one objects to the naming of a peace research institute after an Arab man. Such a thing would be unthinkable in an Arab state, but in Israel this is a cause for pride. Twice in his speech, Netanyahu mentioned Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin and expressed admiration for their work and Israel's hope that we can follow in their footsteps. Regrettably though, neither Mahmoud Abbas (leader of the PA) and Ismail Haniyeh, (one of Hamas' chief leaders) are good candidates for making peace with Israel. Both are committed to stifling a Jewish state from thriving - Haniyeh by taking the extremist and belicose stance, and Abbas by playing the role of the reasonable moderate who argues that a Jewish state is racist.

I am disappointed that while Netanyahu expressed support for a Palestinian state and offered to meet Arab leaders "in any place and at any time, in Damascus, Riyadh and Beirut, and of course Jerusalem," he didn't at least mention his disappointment with the Arab world for their continued denial of the existence of the Jewish state and their stubborn refusal to even set foot in Israeli territory. I am disappointed that while Netanyahu endorsed the creation of a future Palestinian state that will neighbour Israel, he didn't stress his dismay that Palestinian terrorism has killed hundreds, maimed thousands and bereaved families will be affected for the rest of their lives. Netanyahu invited the Palestinians to the table without any "pre-conditions," but shouldn't a pre-condition be that Hamas stops firing rockets at the civilians of Sderot and that Fatah accept the concept of Jewish sovereignty in Israel just as the overwhelming majority of Israelis accept that Palestinians deserve autonomy?

For all the sweet talk for Obama's benefit, Netanyahu's speech was met by disgust in the Arab world. To quote Melanie Phillips: "How can there be a ‘two state solution’ when the Palestinians refuse to accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state? Quite obviously, such a solution is off the table as far as the Palestinians are concerned."

1 comment:

  1. Obama has the most Catholic administration in USA history. Vatican Osservatore Romano editor Vian said on may 18th that Obama "in not a pro-abortion president." What does this prove? That the Vatican message on abortion has only been for politcal purposes. It was used to divide, to encourage Catholics to breed and to encourage non-Catholics to abort out of spite. The Vatican likes the abortion status quo in the USA for this reason. Their purpose is only conquest, not faith. Carolignian Brzezinski spawned Zia al Haq, Khomeini, and bin Laden - breaks up superpowers via Aztlan and Kosovo as per Joel Garreau's Nine Nations. Brzezinski, Buckley and Buchanan winked anti-Semitic votes for Obama, delivered USA to Pope's feudal basket of Bamana Republics. Michael Pfleger and Joe Biden prove Obama is the Pope's boy. Obama is half a Kearney from County Offaly in Ireland. Talal got Pontifical medal as Fatima mandates Catholic-Muslim union against Jews (Francis Johnson, Great Sign, 1979, p. 126), Catholic Roger Taney wrote Dred Scott decision. John Wilkes Booth, Tammany Hall and Joe McCarthy were Catholics. Now Catholic majority Supreme Court. Catholics Palmisano, Grasso, Damato, Langone, Dioguardi, Palmieri destroyed American industry. Subprime construction mobsters had hookers deliver mortgages to banks. McCain's Keeting started it all. They find American cars too advanced to use or their mechanics to fix. Their slovenly, anti-intellectual work ethic produces vacuous, casuistrous blather and a tangle of contradictory regulations. NYC top drop outs: Hispanic 32%, Black 25%, Italian 20%. NYC top illegals: Ecuadorean, Italian, Polish. Ate glis-glis but blamed plague on others, now lettuce coli. Their bigotry most encouraged terror yet they reap most security funds. Rabbi circumcises lower, Pope upper brain. Tort explosion by glib casuistry. Hollywood Joe Kennedy had Bing Crosby proselytise. Bazelya 1992 case proves PLO-IRA-KLA links. Our enemy is the Bru666elles Sineurabia Axis and the only answer is alliance with Israel and India.